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John MacDonald: It's not just more cops that are needed

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Jan 2024, 12:22PM
(NZH).
(NZH).

John MacDonald: It's not just more cops that are needed

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Jan 2024, 12:22PM

It hasn’t taken long, has it? 

It hasn’t taken long for National to start using the same weasel words we got sick of Labour using when it came to police numbers. 

Remember Labour’s great promise of 1800 new “on-the-beat” police officers? Only to find out that it was actually 1,530, and the rest wouldn’t be on the beat at all. They’d be back in the office. 

And all the dancing on the pin that then-Police Minister Ginny Anderson did trying to explain that one away? 

Well, National’s already doing the same. With new Police Minister Mark Mitchell’s comment in Parliament yesterday that instead of these 500 new cops National promised before the election being on the beat within two years, they’ll be on-the-beat within three years. 

That’s what Mark Mitchell said in Parliament. Which had the Prime Minister saying on Newstalk ZB this morning that his minister could have said what he said in a better way. I bet he thought that.  

And then Mark Mitchell was on the radio saying, yep, the boss was right…he could have said things better.  

He said the bit he got wrong was that he should have said that he will work as hard as he can to deliver the 500 new cops within two years. Even though it’s going to be a challenge. 

And then he said what he probably should’ve said all along, and that instead of fudging like Labour did and like Ginny Anderson did when she was Police Minister, he’s going to be upfront and tell us if there are any hurdles to delivering on his promises. 

Which is easier said than done, especially for a politician. But good on him for saying it. It was just 24 hours too late. 

The bigger issue for me, though, is whether 500 extra police officers on the beat is even going to actually make much of a difference. 

I know, numbers-wise and on paper, it sounds like it will. But I’m not convinced. 

Because how better have things got with Labour’s 1,530 extra cops? And what difference is adding another 500 in two years or three years going to make? 

Not much, if other things don’t change. So, what “other things” am I talking about? 

Well, for starters, we need to completely overhaul the rules our security guards operate under. Because, at the moment, they are toothless. They pretty much have no more authority than you or I. And it’s the cops who are left to do the heavy lifting. 

I was at the cricket at Hagley Oval the other week, and lord knows how many cops were on duty there. They could have been elsewhere, but they had to be at the cricket because the security guards are so limited in what they’re allowed to do. 

Mental health callouts, that’s another one. It is staggering how much police resourcing goes into that. Noises have been made in Wellington about trying to sort that problem out.  

But, until the demand for police involvement in mental health callouts diminishes, and until we let the security industry do what it should be doing, then just sending more people to police training college isn’t going to have as much of an impact as it could.   

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